Published: Wed, December 14, 2016
World | By Tasha Manning

Company: Equipment didn't detect North Dakota oil leak

A pipeline leak has spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek roughly two and a half hours from Cannon Ball, where protesters are camped out in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline.

A segment of the Belle Fourche Pipeline near Belfield, N.D., began leaking earlier this month, contaminating almost 6 miles of the Ash Coulee Creek before cleanup workers contained it, Bill Suess, an environmental scientist from the North Dakota Department of Health, told the Associated Press. Which is perhaps the luckiest thing about this whole mess as the creek feeds into the Little Missouri River, though Suess stressed there was no evidence anything had made it that far.

The spill affected privately owned land as well as U.S. Forest Service land, Owen said.

In all, the Belle Fourche pipeline lost 4,200 barrels of crude oil, or more than 176,000 gallons, before operators shut it down, according to state Department of Health spokeswoman Jennifer Skjod.

The Belle Fourche Pipeline, owned by Wyoming-based True Companies, was immediately shut down after a local landowner reported the spill to regulators on December 5, company spokeswoman Wendy Owen told the AP. It is not yet known why electronic monitors did not detect it, though True Cos., the Wyoming-based company operating the Belle Fourche pipeline, believes the "hillside sloughed" and cracked the pipeline.

The 6-inch pipeline, which transports an average of 1,000 barrels of oil per day though rugged Badlands terrain, is buried in a hill that is slumping, Suess said.

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"That is our No.1 theory but nothing is definitive" Owen said. "We have several working theories and the investigation is ongoing", she told CNBC.

The company has hired Alberta-based SWAT Consulting Inc. that specializes in cold-weather oil spill cleanups, Suess said.

It's unknown how long the pipeline, which was built in the 1980s, had been leaking before the landowner discovered it.

True Cos. operates at least three pipeline companies with a combined 2,652 kilometres of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, according to information the companies submitted to federal regulators.

If it's not "solved" by the time he's scheduled to take office in January, the USA president-elect vowed quick action on the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

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